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Measure And Optimize Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The Largest Contentful Paint metric measures how soon after navigation the main content of a website appears. Specifically, it marks the rendering milestone where the visitor can see the page element.

The LCP is one of the three Core Web Vitals Google uses as part of its search rankings, along with Cumulative Layout Shift and Interaction to Next Paint (from March 2024).

This article explains how the Largest Contentful Paint metric, how to measure it on your website, and how to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint.

What is the Largest Contentful Paint?​

The Largest Contentful Paint measures how long it takes for a website to display its biggest single content element. It's one of the most common ways to measure page load time.

Like the First Paint and First Contentful Paint metrics, LCP is a paint timing metric that marks a rendering milestone in the page load process.

Contentful means that content like text or an image were rendered, rather than just showing empty boxes or background images.

Filmstrip explaining Largest Contentful Paint

In the website filmstrip above the LCP element is a piece of text, but it's also common for the LCP to be caused by an image like in the example below.

Filmstrip explaining Largest Contentful Paint

To learn more, read on or check out this video about how to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint metric.

What is a good Largest Contentful Paint?​

Websites should have an LCP of 2.5 seconds or less. If the user waits more than 4 seconds to see the main page content that is considered a poor user experience.

Largest Contentful Paint is one of Google's Core Web Vitals metrics that impact search result rankings. Aim for at least 75% of visitors having a good experience to optimize your rankings.

LCP rangeRating
< 2.5 secondsGood
< 4.0 secondsNeeds Improvement
> 4.0 secondsPoor

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How to optimize Largest Contentful Paint​

Here's a step by step guide on how to fix LCP issues on your website and make the largest element show up sooner:

  1. Identifying the content element responsible for the Largest Contentful Paint
  2. Check what's blocking the element from showing up earlier:
  • Does the initial server response take too long?
  • Are render-blocking resources hiding page content?
  • If the LCP element is an image, how can the image be loaded more quickly?

Identify the Largest Contentful Paint element​

To optimize the LCP metric, you first need to identify the element that's causing the paint.

You can do that using different performance tools, including PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools or DebugBear. See below for details on how to do this with different tools.

Example LCP element in DebugBear

Identify what's blocking the Largest Contentful Paint​

Let's say you see that the Largest Contentful Paint happens after 3 seconds. Why is that? What's blocking it so that it doesn't happen after, say, 2 seconds?

You need to identify the chain of requests that leads to the largest paint on your page.

Some of the potential optimizations here will apply to all LCP elements, others are specific to the type of content that's causing the LCP (for example text or images).

Optimize server response time​

Loading a website always starts by loading an HTML document. Before the browser starts downloading the document no content can be displayed.

You can check if server response time is an issue by looking at the Time to First Byte (TTFB) metric. The TTFB should be below 800 milliseconds. Use the free DebugBear website speed test to test your TTFB.

TTFB in a speed test result

If you use Wordpress you can use a caching plugin like WP Rocket. This way public-facing pages don't need to be regenerated for every visitor that comes to your website as the server can quickly respond with cached content.

Reduce render-blocking resources​

Render-blocking resources prevent all page content from rendering. Finishing these critical requests therefore puts a lower bound on when your largest content element can appear.

Tools like Lighthouse or DebugBear can tell you what requests on your page block rendering.

Example LCP element in DebugBear

CSS stylesheets are generally render-blocking (in order to prevent a flash of unstyled content before the styles are loaded). Avoid using @import in your CSS files as it creates sequential CSS request chains.

JavaScript files can also be render-blocking. However, using the async attribute, the defer attribute or placing the script at the bottom of the page avoids this problem. Minimize render-blocking scripts on your website as JavaScript application code generally isn't required for the initial render of the page.

Parser-blocking requests only block rendering of content that's placed below them in the HTML document.

Have all render-blocking requests finished but no content is showing up? Consider whether an anti-flicker snippet is blocking rendering.

Keep in mind that the document request is also always render-blocking, so reducing the Time to First Byte of your server response will also improve the Largest Contentful Paint.

Optimize LCP images​

Big hero images are often responsible for the Largest Contentful paint.In this case you need to find find out what the image URL is and how you can make that network request finish faster. In DebugBear the LCP image is highlighted in the request waterfall with an LCP badge.

Example LCP element in DebugBear

How can you make the image load faster?

  1. Image compression: a smaller image file will take less time to load than a large one. Use modern formats like WebP and AVIF to speed up the largest image.
  2. Shorten request chains: check the request initiator to see if the image is referenced in the body HTML of the document. If it isn't then you can move on to investigating how to speed up the resource that does initiate the LCP image request
  3. Avoid new server connections: if you load the document from example.com and the LCP image from image-cdn.com then the browser will need to establish a server connection to the other server before starting the image download. If a server connection is reused then this is not necessary, typically saving three round trips on the network.
  4. Preload the LCP image: Preloading a resource not only helps the browser discover it sooner but also prioritizes downloading it.

Let's take a look at the example request waterfall.

LCP image size

The image is only 30 KB large, so there's not much room to optimize further.

LCP initiator

The request initiator is a <picture> element in the HTML document, so the request chain is already quite short. (Although, if we really wanted to optimize the image LCP, we could embed the image in the document as a data URL.)

Preload connection reuse

The document is loaded from www.shopify.com, but the image is loaded from cdn.shopify.com. That means a new connection is created for the first request on the cdn subdomain.

Loading the LCP image from the same server as the document would avoid having to wait for this new connection to be established before starting to download the image.

Preload LCP optimization

Finally, would a preload resource hint help here? I've shown some of the other requests that I didn't include in the previous waterfall views.

The LCP image is already linked in the document HTML, so a preload hint would not help the browser discover the resource sooner. However, it might increase the priority of the image request.

We can see that another resource is preloaded, and Chrome is allocating bandwidth to this resource first. Prioritizing the LCP image instead could help optimize the LCP score for this page.

Consider using responsive images​

Responsive images let you load appropriately sized images for the context where the image elements appear.

For example, on a mobile device with a low-resolution screen you might only need a small image. Loading small images saves bandwidth and means that the image files will download more quickly.

In contrast, on a high-resolution desktop screen you might need to load a larger image to deliver the best visual results to visitors.

Don't lazy load the LCP image​

Lazy loading can speed up your website by focusing bandwidth on high-priority resources. However, when used on LCP elements it can actually make your site slower, as these images should be loaded with a high priority.

Google found that websites with image lazy loading enabled tends to have a higher LCP. So be careful not to use loading="lazy" incorrectly.

Preload LCP optimization

Prioritize the LCP image​

Even if you're not lazy loading the LCP image, the browser still assumes that most images on a page are low priority. For example, they might only appear below the fold or in the page footer.

The browser cannot identify important above-the-fold images until after the initial render of the page, when all relevant styles have been loaded. Therefore a low resource priority is assigned initially until after the First Contentful Paint when the page layout is known.

Low priority LCP image

You can use the fetchpriority="high" priority hint to tell the browser that a specific image request is important. By defining a fetch priority in the initial page HTML, the browser can make a high-priority request for the image right away without waiting for the page to start rendering.

If the LCP image is a CSS background image you can add a preload tag to HTML:

<link rel="preload" href="/images/photo.jpg" as="image" fetchpriority="high">

Normally background images are assumed to be low priority content that's purely decorative. The preload hint lets you tell the browser that this resource is actually important.

LCP Image Request Chains​

Ideally, only two requests should be needed to load an LCP image:

  1. Load the HTML Document
  2. Load the LCP image referenced in the document

But sometimes additional requests are part of the LCP request chain.

This waterfall shows a page that first loads and runs lazyload.min.js before starting to download the LCP image. Instead of being initiated by the HTML, the LCP request is triggered by the JavaScript library.

LCP request chain

If you use JavaScript to lazy load the LCP image, disable lazy loading or using the native loading="lazy" attribute.

Client side applications can also cause request chains that include JavaScript files. Ideally you should implement server side rendering for you JS app, or otherwise optimize the client-side code by reducing bundle size or loading JSON data earlier.

To view requests that are involved in loading the Largest Contentful Paint image you can run a DebugBear speed test and open the Requests tab. Then click on the request marked LCP and open the Request Chain tab.

LCP request chain

Be careful with progressive JPEGs​

Progressive JPEGs can speed up your website by quickly showing a low-quality image and then loading the full-size version later on.

Unfortunately, the Largest Contentful Paint is only registered when the image is fully downloaded. In the filmstrip below it looks like the LCP element has rendered after 3.5 seconds, but actually the full-size version of the image only loads after 6.3 seconds.

Preload LCP optimization

Progressive JPEGs aren't larger than non-progressive files of the same quality. But to improve Core Web Vitals you still need to optimize the overall JPEG size even if the user experience is great already.

If the LCP element is a heading or paragraph​

Ideally the text of the LCP element is included in the page HTML. Then it should show up as soon as all render-blocking resources are loaded.

However, there are a few reasons why text might only render later.

Web fonts take a while to load​

Here's an example where the Largest Contentful Paint doesn't happen until fonts are loaded. Using font-display: swap can prevent this.

LCP after font load

You can host fonts on your own website instead of with a third-party to make them load more quickly. This way no additional web server connection is required.

Don't inline fonts in your CSS or HTML as this will likely cause your website to start rendering more slowly. However, you can inline the CSS font definitions themselves.

Text is inserted using JavaScript​

This waterfall shows the request waterfall of a typical single-page app. After loading the document, the page loads several JavaScript files, then loads the data it wants to display, and then finally spends a bunch of CPU time rendering the page. Only then does the LCP content appear.

The ideal solution here is server-side rendering. If that's not an option, make sure your app bundles load in parallel and work on reducing their download size.

LCP in a single-page app

Optimizing LCP with a Content Delivery Network (CDN)​

Content Delivery Networks can help you serve content more quickly to your visitors. Visitors connect to CDN servers that are distributed across the world, meaning server connections can be established more quickly.

CDNs also provide caching, text compression, and automatic image optimization. These features all help your website load faster and improve your LCP.

How does Largest Contentful Paint affect Lighthouse scores?​

As of version 10.0.1 (Feb 2023) the Largest Contentful Paint determines 25% percent of the overall Lighthouse Performance score.

This table shows the maximum LCP you'd need to achieve a certain Largest Contentful Paint score.

LCP subscoreMax LCP (Mobile)Max LCP (Desktop)
1001.5s0.6s
902.5s1.2s
504.0s2.4s
106.5s4.9s

The performance subscore for LCP is visible in DebugBear for example:

Performance score breakdown in DebugBear

Measuring LCP sub-parts​

The overall Largest Contentful Paint metric can be divided into four LCP sub-parts to make it easier to optimize:

  • Time to First Byte
  • LCP Resource Load Delay
  • LCP Resource Load Time
  • LCP Render Delay

You can find these numbers in Lighthouse or in the DebugBear real user monitoring data.

LCP sub-parts in DebugBear RUM

Largest Contentful Paint definition​

Changes to the LCP definition​

Different versions of Chrome measure LCP slightly differently. Google keeps track of changes to the LCP definition here.

These changes aim to reduce cases where the LCP is identified incorrectly, resulting in a metric value does not match real user experience.

For example, full-size background images used to be counted as LCP candidates, even though they are less important than the main page content. Now, full-size backgrounds are ignored for the LCP calculation.

When is the LCP value final?​

The Largest Contentful Paint can update later on in the page load process, if a large part of the UI is updated.

For example, the LCP might update if:

  • a low-resolution image is replaced with a high-resolution one
  • a slider advances to the next slide
  • parallax is enabled on a background image

Once the user starts interacting with a page, for example by clicking on it, the LCP value no longer updates.

Measuring Largest Contentful Paint​

There are many tools that let you measure the Largest Contentful Paint:

  • The DebugBear Website Speed Test
  • PageSpeed Insights
  • Chrome DevTools
  • The Largest Contentful Paint API
  • DebugBear real user monitoring
  • Google Search Console

Run a DebugBear speed test​

Enter your website URL in the free DebugBear speed test to measure your Largest Contentful Paint score and get customized recommendations to optimize LCP.

You can see what the largest element on the page is and what resources are involved in loading it.

DebugBear LCP info

The Web Vitals tab also provides real user trend data for the last 25 weeks. This data comes from real Chrome users that Google collects as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX).

Real user web vitals LCP trends

PageSpeed Insights​

Google's PageSpeed Insights makes it easy to measure the Largest Contentful Paint on your website. PageSpeed Insights will report real user data that Google has already collected and also trigger an on-demand lab-based test of your website. These results are reported under Field Data and Lab Data, respectively.

Google uses a fairly slow network connection in the lab test, so your metrics will usually be slower in the lab than they are for real users. For example, for you Youtube the field LCP is 3.1s, while the lab test returns a value of 7.8s.

If you speed up your website the lab data will improve immediately. However, it will take a while for up-to-date real-user data to be collected.

PageSpeed Insights report for Youtube

The lab test is run using Google Lighthouse, so the PSI report also provides a deeper page analysis that highlights opportunities for improvement.

PageSpeed Insights report for Youtube

How to identify the Largest Contentful Paint element​

You can also find the element that caused the Largest Contentful Paint in the Diagnostics section under Largest Contentful Paint Element.

Largest Contentful Paint element in Lighthouse report

Chrome DevTools​

If you run a Performance recording in Chrome's developer tools, you can find the Largest Contentful Paint in the Timings Section.

If you click on the LCP marker it will highlight the element causing that paint on the page.

Largest Contentful Paint timing and element in DevTools

DevTools also has a Lighthouse tab that generates a report similar to the PageSpeed Insights one.

Using the Largest Contentful Paint API​

You can use a PerformanceObserver to access the LCP of a page that's open in your browser. Paste the following script in the console of your browser's developer tools:

let lastLcp;
const po = new PerformanceObserver((entryList) => {
const entries = entryList.getEntries();
for (const entry of entries) {
if (entry.startTime !== lastLcp) {
console.log(
`New LCP: ${entry.startTime}ms
Size: ${entry.size} px^2
HTML: ${entry.element ? entry.element .outerHTML.slice(0, 80): "(no element)"}`
);
lastLcp = entry.startTime;
}
}
});
po.observe({ type: "largest-contentful-paint", buffered: true });

Every time the Largest Contentful Paint is updated you'll get a message in the console showing the element HTML and the size of the element.

Largest Contentful Paint API

Measure real user LCP with DebugBear RUM​

DebugBear Real User Monitoring (RUM) lets you install an analytics snippet on your website and see how fast your website is for your visitors.

Data can be collected across your whole website, making it easy to identify slow pages. You can also look at a map showing LCP across the world to identify specific countries where your website is slow.

LCP map

The largest element on your page will vary for different groups of visitors, depending on screen size, login state, or initial scroll position. The DebugBear RUM tool provides a breakdown showing you the most common LCP elements and whether they need to be optimized.

DebugBear LCP element breakdown

Largest Contentful Paint in Google Search Console​

Google uses the LCP metric as a ranking factor, so reducing it improves your site's SEO.

Search Console can help you identify pages with a poor LCP. Select Core Web Vitals in the sidebar, then Open Report for either the mobile or desktop data.

You can click on each reported issue to see example URLs where LCP needs improvement. Note that Search Console groups pages together into different groups – the data you see doesn't always apply to that specific page URL.

LCP in Search Console

Monitor Largest Contentful Paint​

DebugBear can monitor the Largest Contentful Paint and other Core Web Vitals of your website. Run continuous Lighthouse-based tests, check Google's CrUX dataset daily, and collect real user analytics on your website.

The project dashboards shows you how LCP and other metrics have changed over time.

LCP performance trends

Our rendering filmstrip highlights the Largest Contentful Paint milestone and puts it into context with the overall page load process and other page speed metrics.

Filmstrip explaining Largest Contentful Paint

The Web Vitals tab shows both lab-based LCP data and data from Google's Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX).

You can also see what the Largest Contentful Paint element is. It's highlighted with a red border in the screenshot.

CrUX Largest Contentful Paint

Our detailed request waterfall can easily be filtered to show just the most relevant network resources to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint.

LCP filter request list

In addition to setting up scheduled test you can also use DebugBear to monitor real user experiences on your website.

DebugBear RUM LCP dashboard